Auckland open account with stunning win
Auckland registered their first victory of the competition, and a stunning one at that, after proceedings in the first innings seemed to indicate the match was on its way to a draw. Wellington, who are at the fifth place on the points table, were asked to bat and they responded well, posting 477 courtesy a century from Stewart Rhodes (124). He was helped by half-centuries from Michael Pollard (60), Luke Woodcock (97) and Jeetan Patel (71). However, Auckland were far more dominating in their reply, with centuries from Tim McIntosh (171) and Richard Jones (107) taking them to 480 for the loss of just three wickets.
Auckland declared once they went past Wellington with the intention of forcing a win, and that's what they managed to achieve thanks to a combined bowling effort in the second innings. Led by legspinner Tarun Nethula, who took 4 for 17, Auckland kept gnawing away at the Wellington batsmen. Each of the five bowlers managed to grab at least a wicket, including two from the top order by seamer Gareth Shaw. Wellington folded for 122 in under 50 overs, and the Auckland openers, requiring 120 to win, knocked the runs off quickly on the fourth day to seal a morale-boosting win.
Runs flowed in Rangiora as Northern Districts and Canterbury batted out a high-scoring draw. But, importantly, Northern Districts managed to secure a first-innings lead to clinch two points and retain their place at the top of the points table. The match featured five centuries, three in the first innings as Canterbury, after opting to bat, declared on 558 for 4. The opener Rob Nicol made 134 followed by Shanan Stewart (161*) and Dean Brownlie (112*), who added an unbeaten 236 for the fifth wicket to take their team to a mammoth score.
Canterbury's hopes of securing a first-innings lead were thwarted by a collective batting display from ND. Five batsmen out of the top six managed a score of at least 65, and each of the 11 who batted reached double-digits. The Marshall brothers, Hamish and James, struck centuries and added 122 for the fifth wicket. James Marshall then received excellent support from the lower order, as the total stretched to 726, a lead of 168; the last three wickets yielded 180 runs. Openers BJ Watling and Michael Parlane began the tough reply with a stand of 126, and Kane Williamson contributed 93 to set the platform for the Marshalls and the lower order to build on. Canterbury, as a result of the draw, were left at second place at the end of the round.
Rain played spoilsport on the fourth and final day in Invercargill as the contest between Central Districts and Otago, which promised much, ended in a draw. Both teams were left tied on 18 points at the end of the game - CD won two points due to a first-innings lead - but Otago are ranked third due to a better quotient (0.972 as opposed to 0.958).
CD were asked to bat, and Matthew Sinclair, backed by a solid top and middle-order performance, helped himself to 122. However, Otago hit back as their seamers Neil Wagner and Warren McSkimming grabbed seven wickets between them to restrict CD to 355 after they had threatened to get much more; the last six wickets fell for 26 runs.
Aaron Redmond replied strongly in Otago's innings, scoring 136, and while Sam Wells reached a half-century, CD held the upper hand at the end of their innings after Ewen Thompson picked up 5 for 64. Michael Mason supported him with three wickets to help bowl out Otago for 330 and secure a 25-run lead. But in a see-saw fixture, CD slipped to 95 for 5 in their second innings before rain erased any hopes of a thrilling finish on the fourth day.